Flick through the manufacturing trade press or browse their websites, and you’ll see hundreds of articles and blog posts discussing the urgency of industrial automation.
But amongst all the talk of digitally transforming supply chains and using AI-powered robotics to boost productivity - there’s barely a mention of automating the sales and marketing process.
And yet, arguably, the need for manufacturers to supercharge their growth and correct flatlining profits with more data-driven sales and marketing tools has never been greater.
Of course, this applies particularly to the contract manufacturing sector.
Here’s an example of a recent article from The Manufacturer highlighting the criticality of 'universal automation' in the manufacturing industry.
With accelerating production cycles, labour shortages, increased product complexity and price competition, the author says, there is an ever greater need for the complete 'digitisation of factories, processes, plants, machines, and industrial operations'. Integrated robotics, IoT and AI are all touted as solutions to cut waste, increase sustainability and make businesses more responsive to customer demand. Automation across the production cycle will ultimately help manufacturers win more business and improve their profitability.
But why has marketing been left out of this call for universal automation? Don't the sales and marketing teams that are responsible for driving revenue in a business need the digital tools to identify opportunities and nurture leads through increasingly complex sales cycles?
Isn't the required investment for digitising and automating production lines, contingent on their ability to build strong and sustainable sales pipelines?
The buyers’ journey just got more complex
OEMs are grappling with the challenges of a changing marketplace, too. They’re looking for ways to create higher quality products faster and more expertly. In their search for better ways to deliver their products, they’re having to make complex choices, such as:
- How much of their process to outsource and when
- Whether to onshore or nearshore
- How they can meet stricter environmental regulation
- Who they should listen to for advice
Their customer journeys are taking place in a serial way across longer buying cycles. The decision-making process is becoming more complex, tangled and messy because of the complexity of the products they need to build.
In the manufacturing sector, contract manufacturers need to sell more to drive their growth, but their best prospects and opportunities can be buried deep inside organisations.
Sales and marketing teams need to engage with (and persuade) a wide range of specialists who are often resistant to and absent from traditional sales conversations.
While the pressure is on to build pipelines capable of funding the growth of facilities and capabilities - they often haven’t got the tech stack in place to help control and close these complex buyers’ journeys.
In this context, investing in the digital tools to automate your sales and marketing process is essential.
7 reasons the modern sales process needs automation
1. Lead generation and nurturing
Modern digital marketing tools excel at identifying potential customers and maintaining engagement, even across long and complex sales cycles.
They’re using digital lead scoring tools to help customers move seamlessly within the sales cycle. From the moment of discovery, to the moment their digital journey becomes more focused on sales-like decision-making.
Automated systems can help track user behaviour and pinpoint where a lead is in the sales cycle, helping businesses move website visitors seamlessly from prospects to MQLs (marketing qualified leads) to SQLs (sales qualified leads) in a more automated way.
Having the tools to automate these kind of customer journeys, helps your sales team focus on ready-to-convert leads rather than spending time on those that are not yet ripe for one-to-one attention.
2. Personalisation at scale
Personalising communication with prospects can be a time-consuming process when done manually.
Automation allows for customised email sequences; it lets you share content and offers based on customer data and behaviour, without the need for manual segmentation.
But modern CMS (content management systems) integrated with CRMs (customer relationship management systems) can also help you build other digital journeys that are more intuitive and likely to convert.
Through geolocation data you can instantly serve more relevant content to visitors when they arrive. But recognising returning website visitors and serving them different content based on previous encounters, acknowledges different needs at various stages of the sales cycle. Modern CMS tools can change the navigation for those returning to your site in real time, helping them get the information they need more quickly. It can create a personalised experience that keeps engaging and readying them for conversion.
3. Efficient Campaign Management
Integrated sales and marketing tools like Hubspot can enable workers to create, manage, and track marketing campaigns within a centralised platform. This reduces the complexity of managing multiple channels and campaigns, allowing for more streamlined operations and the ability to quickly adjust strategies as needed.
4. Data Analysis and Reporting
With marketing automation, the collection and analysis of data can become more systematic and accurate. Marketing teams can benefit from insights generated by real-time analytics, which help in making informed decisions to tweak existing campaigns and create more compelling content . Automated reporting tools save countless hours that would otherwise be spent on manual data compilation and interpretation.
5. Customer Relationship Management (CRM):
Marketing automation tools integrated with CRM systems can provide a seamless flow of data and information between marketing and sales, bringing them close together for sales enablement. This ensures that workers have access to up-to-date customer information, enabling them to tailor their interactions and follow-ups effectively, leading to improved customer experiences and higher conversion rates.
6. Social Media Marketing
Automation tools for social media scheduling and content distribution help maintain a consistent online presence without requiring constant attention. This allows for timely posts and content sharing that align with the overall marketing strategy, while employees can focus on engaging with customers and creating high-quality content rather than the logistics of posting schedules.
7. Automated advertising on social networks
Organic reach is valuable, but paid advertising can supercharge your efforts. LinkedIn and Facebook offer targeted advertising options, allowing you to reach specific demographics, job roles, or even particular companies. By investing in paid campaigns, you can ensure your content reaches those who matter most, driving more qualified leads. And AI
LinkedIn's latest AI models can also streamline and automate your advertising efforts. They utilise the information you provide to automatically fine-tune your campaign bids and budget allocation, ensuring optimal ad placements and creative execution. At the conclusion of your campaign, you'll receive a detailed report summarising its performance.
In the complex manufacturing sales cycle, businesses can’t effectively identify and nurture multiple leads across multiple channels without using automation. From content sharing to lead scoring, email marketing to advertising sequencing, companies who lack the digital tools to automate these processes are likely to lose sight and contact with their most important prospects.
Currently, many contract manufacturers don’t have the marketing tech stack to accelerate their lead generation and sales nurturing process to underwrite the increased automation of their production and supply lines.
But one digital transformation process is increasingly dependent on another. Sales and marketing must become part of the manufacturer's drive for 'universal automation' if the whole business is to succeed.